Using a Printer to Enlarge Reference Photos for LARGE Paintings

See First my article titled Drawing Tracing Aids

Drawing Tracing Aids, describes using electronic applications.  Another way to get a drawing onto your paper is trace it. But to trace the image it needs to be actual size. After that you need a technique to create a line drawing that will be easy to trace.

How do I enlarge my photo to larger than 8.5″x11″??
One way, take it to a store and ask them to blow it up. This could be expensive to make a 16 x 20″  (the following examples will use 16″x20″ reference photo, modify this for you uses)
Less expensive way is to use YOUR printer to enlarge images. You can then use this actual size image to help you accurately get your image on the paper.

  1. With your photo software, crop your photo exactly to the look and dimensions you will want the painting, 11×14, 16×20 or what ever… Make note of these exact dimensions.
  2. To change your cropped image’s physical size, look under Image>Resize/Re-sample. It might be under Edit on the tool bar at the top of the program. Look for Width and Height. Change these to your desired dimensions. Eg. Width: 16 Height: 20, change the units to inches. (Use landscape dimensions if needed…),  Also look for something that says “Keep Your Proportions” or Preserve Aspect Ratio (proportional). This will keep it from distorting your image. NOW VERY IMPORTANT!!! SAVE THIS IMAGE WITH A DIFFERENT NAME!! Eg. PattiB RESIZED16x20.jpg. You don’t want to damage your original image!!!
  3. When your image is the size you want it, you want to click on Print> then look for Actual Size or Original Size, not Shrink or stretch to paper size. When you select Actual Size you may only see part of your photo in the preview screen. That is how much of the photo will print on an 8.5×11″ piece of paper. Change the Position on Paper. You will uncheck “Centered on Paper”. Then change Left margin: to 0, zero, and Top margin: to 0. This will print the first page of just the top left corner of your photo.  Print
  4. To print the rest of the photo will take a little trial and error. Maybe… Remember this example is for a vertical/portrait oriented image. If yours is in landscape your numbers will be different.
  5. Go back to step 3. File>Print. Now change the Left margin to -6 (minus 6 inches) and Top margin: 0, It should show you the right side of the photo. Change the left margin to what ever you need, but you want overlap with the image you just printed.  Print
  6. File>Print. Now change the Left Margin: back to 0, Right Margin: -9.5 (this will move the print image down the page.)    Print
  7. File>Print: Left margin: Exactly what you put in step 5, and Right Margin: exactly what you put in step 6.   Print.  Ta Da!!
  8. Now cut any white paper away and tape then all together. Carefully cut away the excess on the backside. Here is your exact size reference photo.

You have many options to transfer this to your paper.
How do I create a line drawing from which to trace using a light table or window?

1. Put the full size photo on a light box (or taped to a window). Then use vellum or tracing paper on top of your reference, then trace major features (not every detail) with black sharpie or dark pencil. You want it to be dark enough to see through your paper on the next step.  Then remove the photo and put your 140lb or 300lb hot press paper on the vellum on light box and trace in pencil those main feature lines. (Thanks Patti B for this!)

Please read Drawing Tracing Aids Here is an excerpt:

 “Remember you are an artist. Don’t draw lines that are boring! It will be easy to overdraw your subject and create a STIFF overworked painting!”

SKETCH! Not TRACE! your image. The sketchy lines you get will look very artsy. Don’t let your lines get too long or continuous. These lines are boring!!! Let them change width and light-dark. You will like the results. Keep the lines light, you can darken them later. If you plan on painting the drawing don’t use too many lines. Just indicate the critical lines. Critical lines and marks include the eyes. Mark the placement of the corners and the angles of the lids, and pupils. Also note the corners of the mouth, nostrils and ears. Things like hair and clothing can be loosely placed and drawn by eye when you are done tracing. Remove the reference and look at your drawing. You are the artist.  Refine and repair the drawing. You can add more lines and erase or lighten the ones you don’t want or need. On a face, use light dotted lines for soft shadows like the cheeks or dimples or glint on the nose.
NOTE: Too many lines can make the paper dirty or cluttered or confusing. You don’t need EVERY line!!

2. Another use of the actual size drawing is to use the grid method, (Google that for more info) or you could use rulers or dividers to measure and transfer the actual size.

Good Luck,

Four ways of beginning a portrait by Ben Lustenhouwer   17 min. YouTube where he discusses and explains 4 ways to transfer a drawing to Canvas or to WC paper, 1. Trace from full size drawing, 2. Projecting an image, 3. Grid method, 4. Drawing from direct observation. He gives good detail on each!!

Last edited 11 Dec 16, added a YouTube on transferring an image to a canvas/WC paper,
18 Aug 16 Thanks PattiB